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Hugo ’t Hart wins Political Science Master’s Thesis Prize 2020

In an attempt to give European citizens a say over who should lead the European Commission, the European Parliament has opted for so-called 'Spitzenkandidaten'. Prior to the elections for the European Parliament, the EP’s political parties appoint lead candidates for the role of Commission President, which ultimately goes to the candidate of the political party capable of marshalling sufficient parliamentary support. Hugo ’t Hart dedicated his master’s thesis to the ’Spitzenkandidaten’ phenomenon and became the top contender for the Political Science Master’s Thesis Prize 2020.

A rhetorical instrument

The jury, consisting of Maria Spirova and Michael Meffert, found that ’t Hart’s thesis stood out in the group of excellent theses nominated for the Political Science Master’s Thesis Prize, in terms of ‘theoretical development, methodological acumen, and empirical execution.’ Hugo ’t Hart, graduating in the International Organisation specialisation of Leiden University’s master’s programme in Political Science, has developed a ‘sophisticated theoretical framework to explain the recent emergence and development of Spitzenkandidaten in the European Union.’ Investigating the interactions between the EU’s main organs, the European Parliament, the European Council and the European Commission, ’t Hart argues that the emergence of the Spitzenkandidaten can be explained as a rhetorical instrument deployed by the European Parliament to attain constitutional goals related to the nomination procedure for the President of the European Commission.

‘Explaining the Spitzenkandidaten’s Institutional Emergence in the European Union’, written under the supervision of Martijn Mos and second reader Matthew di Giuseppe, in the eyes of the jury ‘not only does an outstanding job of advancing on existing, complex theories of European integration, but supplements this with a thoughtful and convincing empirical analysis.’

Youtube ceremony

Normally, the Thesis Prize is awarded during the master’s graduation ceremony. Hugo ’t Hart, however, did not receive his well-deserved prize in person. Given the restrictions currently imposed by COVID-19 on all live events, the ceremony for the class of 2020 was a pre-recorded broadcast. It can be viewed here:

Youtube channel Leiden University Institute of Political Science

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